Ever since I learned to make ricotta, I have been itchin’ to make a lasagna with fresh pasta, homemade ricotta and homemade sauce. So last weekend, with the help of friend Stacy, my goal was realized. Fresh pasta using a blend of white flour and semolina; sauce with San Marzano tomatoes and basil from my garden; fresh homemade ricotta; and fresh mozzarella and a good aged Parmesan from Dorothy Lane Market. Mmm, mmm good.
Canning my own tomatoes for sauce would be a dream, but sadly my yard is 1) too small and 2) too shady. I could, however, try to make my own mozzarella, right? How hard could it be? After all, making ricotta is a piece of cake!
So with naiveté on my side, I ordered some supplies from the New England Cheese Company. I discovered what supplies would be necessary from watching select videos on You Tube. One was a Make Mozzarella in 30 Minutes, and another more traditional method from Solo by Bonicelli.
Everything I read and watched indicated good fresh local milk is a must, so I picked up a couple of half gallon [real glass] bottles of Hartzler whole milk at Dorothy Lane Market. Imagine my surprise to learn the milk is topped with cream. Oh, how that took me back to when I was a kid and the milkman delivered to a milk box on our front porch.
My childhood friend and neighbor Loretta would always drink/eat the cream upon delivery. I tasted the cream that almost formed a seal at the top of the Hartzler jugs…sublime.
So with kitchen and tools [8 qt pot, colander, microwave safe bowl, instant read thermometer, cheese spoon, cheese cloth, kitchen twine] freshly scrubbed and ingredients [gallon fresh cold milk, citric acid, rennet, cheese salt] assembled, cheese making begins.
Within six minutes, it’s evident that something has gone horribly awry [I now suspect my instant-read thermometer was not properly immersed and that all might have well had the concoction been left alone for a bit longer]. Instead of a lovely custard-like curd in my pot, there’s something resembling a cream-colored brain swimming in the depths of the whey.
Frantically [’cause I’ve got $7 worth of milk at stake here], instructions are reviewed. According to the New England Cheesemaking website, my milk was to blame, and the only salvation was to hang it. So hung it was. After the curd had completely released the whey, the contents of the pouch were examined. The almost cheese looked pretty good, so I made an executive decision to forge onward.
From here I followed the microwave method, heating on high for a minute, squeezing out any liquid; then repeating for 30 and 15 seconds. Finally the cheese was kneaded, but it never quite got to the promised land – a smooth, shiny texture. But not too bad for a first try…not the prettiest cheese, but the flavor was right on the money.
OK mozzarella, the focus is now on you. Say cheese!